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05/20/10 11:33 PM ET

Jays leave comfort zone vs. D-backs

Ready or not, it's time for Interleague Play. The Blue Jays and D-backs will get away from the conventions of the regular-season schedule to play each other on Friday, and Toronto will have to move out of its comfort zone first. The Blue Jays have had their pitchers taking batting practice since their last homestand, and they're ready to see if their hard work will take root.

"You want to do it earlier," said Toronto manager Cito Gaston. "But you don't want people to get hurt either."

And that's the beauty of Interleague Play, that both teams have to do things that normally don't factor into their success. National League teams have to adopt a designated hitter when they play in American League parks, turning a bench player into a valuable bat. And the AL teams, by contrast, have to forego some offense and hope that their pitchers can get the bunt down.

"I think because our pitchers are not used to hitting or bunting, it's a disadvantage," said Gaston. "No matter how much you work with them, it's still a disadvantage. I think Interleague Play is great, but one of these days they might just say, 'You can use your pitcher, and you can use your DH.' It's a disadvantage, but other teams have dealt with it and played well. We just haven't."

The Blue Jays went 7-11 against NL opponents in 2009, but they've played Arizona to a standstill over the years. The Jays and D-backs have only played two series, and they've gone 3-3 against each other. Toronto last visited Arizona in 2002, taking a 2-1 edge in a three-game series. The D-backs earned revenge by taking two of three at Rogers Centre in 2004.

And while pitchers hitting may make a difference in Friday's series opener, it's far more likely that the game will come down to the matchup on the mound. Toronto will go to erratic starter Brandon Morrow, while the D-backs will counter with three-time All-Star Dan Haren, who has won four of his past five decisions after dropping each of his first starts.

Blue Jays: Looking for more consistency from Morrow
Morrow, the fifth overall selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, was given new life when he was acquired by the Blue Jays over the winter. The hard-throwing right-hander had split his time between the rotation and relief work while with the Mariners, but Toronto committed to him as a starter immediately and has remained steadfast despite his initial ups-and-downs.

Morrow has completed six innings in half of his first eight starts, and he's allowed three earned runs or less five times. But when he hasn't been able to find his form, it's been another story entirely. Morrow has twice as many strikeouts (54) as walks (27) this season, but he's been knocked around for at least five earned runs three times in the season's first six weeks.

D-Backs: Reynolds going deep
Mark Reynolds' fifth-inning home run Thursday was his 100th career long ball, putting him in third place on the D-backs' all-time home run list behind Luis Gonzalez's 224 and Steve Finley's 153. Reynolds also became the second-fastest D-backs player in franchise history to connect for 100 long balls (458 games). Luis Gonzalez accomplished the feat in his 424th game with the D-backs. Moreover, Reynolds is the fourth-fastest third baseman in Major League history to reach 100 homers.

The D-backs have also been getting enhanced production from the right side of their infield. Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche have combined for 18 home runs and 53 RBIs this season, tops among all first-base and second-base combinations in the league. Only two teams -- Philadelphia and Florida -- are within easy striking distance of Arizona in that category.

Worth noting
Vernon Wells homered Tuesday, pulling into a tie with Joe Carter (203) for second place on the team's all-time homer chart. Only four Blue Jays -- Carlos Delgado (336), Wells, Carter and George Bell (202) -- have hit 200 homers. ... Toronto leads the Major Leagues with 66 home runs and has three players -- Jose Bautista, Wells and Alex Gonzalez -- in the league's top 10. Bautista has hit a home run in four of his past six games. ... Arizona's Chris Snyder has gone 226 consecutive games without an error, the third-longest streak for a catcher in the history of the game.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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